Strauss: Eine Alpensinfonie, Salome Op.54 (CBSO/Andris Nelsons)
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R. Strauss: Eine Alpensinfonie (An Alpine Symphony), Op. 64, TrV 233
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With his Alpine Symphony, Richard Strauss all but invited us to see it as a veritable summit in the genre of programme music. It is masterly in its layer upon layer of orchestration (not unlike a mountain massif), while its harmonic and motivic riches offer a sublime acoustic panorama that is gigantic in scope. The City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra under its music director Andris Nelsons, have already released a highly-praised Strauss disc on Orfeo with Ein Heldenleben and the Rosenkavalier Suite, and Nelsons understands how to convey his fascination with Strauss to both the orchestra and his listeners with utter conviction. Musical intoxication is transformed by Nelsons into a flush of freedom freedom for all, but of the artist in particular. There are naturally also moments of solitude and reflection as when, for example, Strauss makes thematic allusions to Also sprach Zarathustra (at the summit). Then there is the sense of calm that is subtly savoured to the full after the storms that marked the descent. Strauss was not just concerned with personal liberty, but was also capable of enthusiastic liberality as in his opera Salome, which caused such a scandal at the time of its world première. This is clearly audible in the brilliant encore that the CBSO and Nelsons offer here, namely the Dance of the Seven Veils . We rarely hear it so finely tuned and with such unerring accuracy in its orchestral colours and rhythmic density, not to mention the climaxes and shifts in tempi. This classic of the early 20th century could hardly be played in a fresher, more contemporary manner.
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